TIKRIT, Iraq, Jan. 23, 2007 — Even before he came to Iraq, Spc. Michael N. Dodson wanted to be a flight medic.
Already a ground combat medic for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Dodson was looking for something even more challenging.
But when his unit was called up to serve a tour in Iraq, it looked like his plans would have to be put on hold.
“I had originally planned on trying to get a flight medic slot before we deployed,” Dodson said. “And I had one, but due to circumstances before our deployment I wasn’t able to go (to flight medic school).”
The combat tour, though, may have just intensified his desire to practice his life-saving skills as part of an air medical evacuation team.
“I just wasn’t really satisfied with working inside the (base) all the time and in the Troop Medical Clinic,” Dodson said. “I didn’t really feel very challenged by the types of patients we typically get in there.”
He began asking around about openings for a flight medic position, he said, and found that one of the medical evacuation units located at his forward operating base was in need of additional personnel.
Company C, 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, part of which was at Dodson’s base, had an open slot for a flight medic, so Dodson went to his chain of command to see if they could transfer him.
They did, and Dodson began on-the-job training with the company soon after.
While ground medics and flight medics practice many of the same skills, flight medics also must have training in air crew duties, Dodson said.
It took him about three weeks to complete the training, which is similar to the length of time medics can expect to spend in the flight medic school in the rear, Dodson said.
It’s not unusual for ground medics to get on-the-job training to be flight medics, said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Morris, a pilot who works with Dodson.
“Sometimes they go through the flight medic school before they even come here,” Morris said. “More often than not, though, a commander somewhere will see an outstanding ground medic and will recommend him to be a flight medic.”
But, learning on the job while in a combat zone presents its own challenges.
“Typically the flight medic course in the rear is three weeks, but they don’t really fly. It’s just kind of like an introduction,” Dodson said. “Just a couple days after I got here I started doing flights. It was a lot of stuff to get at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad.”
Part of those challenges was the increased risk inherent with anything done inside a combat zone.